Review of Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween

Samurai Scarecrow: A Very Ninja Halloween
by Rubin Pingk; illus. by the author
Primary    Simon    48 pp.
7/18    978-1-4814-3059-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-3060-9    $10.99

In his second holiday-themed adventure (Samurai Santa, rev. 11/15), young ninja Yukio faces a familiar Halloween-night dilemma: how to handle a tagalong sibling. Doting little sis Kashi emulates all of Yukio’s careful preparations and trick-or-treating plans. “It was starting to get on Yukio’s NERVES.” When Kashi unveils her copycat costume to laughs from Yukio’s fellow ninjas, it’s the final straw. “You’re not a real ninja! And you NEVER will be.” (“Arg. That be harsh,” comments a pirate-costumed ninja.) But it’s lucky for Kashi that she has been paying such close attention to her big bro; she cleverly invokes Yukio’s spooky story about the Samurai Scarecrow who prowls the night (“Show me the birds no longer afraid / the feathered fools who won’t flee. / Find me the birds who think I’m decayed… / I’ll teach them to be scared of ME”) to get some payback — and some well-deserved respect from the bigger kids. Thoughtful text design enhances Pingk’s spare, funny narrative. Digital illustrations in a limited palette of muted oranges and purples have the adorable-but-also-a-little-creepy aesthetic of a Miyazaki movie, perfectly befitting both the siblings’ relatable range of emotions and the delicious childhood experience of scaring each other silly with an urban legend. Although, how did Kashi pull off that Samurai Scarecrow ensemble? I guess it’ll have to be her secret.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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